Spring reunion planned for May

Decision to cancel Homecoming 2009 will not be reversed, Principal says

Principal Tom Williams said he doesn’t expect alumni donations to decrease as a result of moving Homecoming from September to May.
Principal Tom Williams said he doesn’t expect alumni donations to decrease as a result of moving Homecoming from September to May.

Tuesday’s announcement that fall Homecoming has been replaced by a Homecoming-style “Spring Reunion” was met with both support and angry condemnations from Queen’s students and alumni.

Worry over safety issues surrounding the annual unsanctioned Aberdeen Street party and fear that the University’s reputation could be irreparably damaged prompted Principal Tom Williams’ announcement that Homecoming 2009 and 2010 would be moved from the fall term to May.

Williams said he’s received hundreds of e-mails from alumni, and most of the responses have been positive.

The decision to hold Homecoming 2009 in May will not be reversed, Williams said, the future of Homecoming will depend on alumni feedback.

“Well, we certainly would go ahead with it next year,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to predict beyond that time.”

Williams said he doesn’t expect donations will decrease as a result of the decision because alumni reactions have been largely positive.

“I’m not anticipating that,” he said. “They may even go up.”

Williams said cancelling Homecoming will likely also improve the sometimes antagonistic town-gown relationship.

“It will probably lower the tensions a little bit,” he said. “There’s no question that Aberdeen strained those relations.”

Current students won’t be affected by the move, Williams said, because Homecoming is about alumni. He added that the AMS will benefit because it will no longer have to focus so much of its attention on Aberdeen.

“It’ll certainly free up a lot of time of the student government they had been spending trying to fix this problem.”

Williams said he didn’t think many current students would attend Homecoming 2009 because so many students get jobs outside of Kingston.

Williams also announced Tuesday that the University would donate $175,000 to the city of Kingston toward the costs of the security presence on Aberdeen Street during Homecoming 2008. He said the money would come out of the University’s current operating budget.

Sarah Renaud, president of the Queen’s University Alumni Association and ArtSci ’96, said the response she’s gotten has been less positive.

“I’ve had mixed feedback from various alumni,” she said.

Although some alumni are pleased with the change, some aren’t as pleased about the direction their reunion is taking, Renaud said.

“Others are naturally disappointed that they’re seeing their reunion year being moved to a spring Homecoming.”

Renaud said many alumni are unhappy they won’t be able to attend a football game during their reunion weekend.

“The football game has always been an integral part of Homecoming for some.”

It’s not yet clear how alumni giving will be affected, Renaud said.

“It’s too soon to tell,” she said. “Hopefully they will see the long-term strategy around this.”

Renaud said she thinks moving Homecoming will make it easier to diffuse the party on Aberdeen Street.

“It gives the opportunity for the police to deal with the situation on Aberdeen without having to worry about the influx of alumni on campus.”

Renaud said she plans to attend Homecoming next year.

“I’m disappointed that Aberdeen has overshadowed the Homecoming events,” she said. “At the end of the day, I personally respect Principal Williams’ decision.”

Larry Rossignol, ArtSci ’75 and Law ’81, said he was disappointed with the Principal’s announcement.

Rossignol said he found out Homecoming was being replaced with the “Spring Reunion” from two e-mails sent to alumni on Tuesday, one of which was from Williams and one of which was from Renaud.

Rossignol said he thinks “Spring Reunion” is a poor substitute for Homecoming.

“If you have Homecoming and people come to an empty campus … it’s going to be a farce,” he said, adding that he thinks the Aberdeen Street party will continue even without a fall Homecoming.

“If kids want to party, there’s gonna be a party.”

Rossignol said he’s never attended the Aberdeen Street party, but he surveyed the aftermath in 2006 and didn’t think it was a big deal.

“I was there at 10 the next morning and I didn’t see any houses on fire or cars turned over or anything.

“It’s just such a non-issue and yet the reaction is such a big negative thing.”

Rossignol said he probably won’t be attending “Spring Reunion.”

Despite his disappointment, Rossignol said he would continue donating to the University.

AMS president Talia Radcliffe said because so many of the revellers on Aberdeen aren’t Queen’s students, cancelling fall Homecoming won’t guarantee the Aberdeen Street party will cease to exist.

Radcliffe said she wasn’t sure moving Homecoming would spell the end of the Aberdeen party, adding that because the Red Hat volunteers have experienced so much hostility on Aberdeen Street over the years the AMS had been considering not continuing the program in 2009.

“I will say that aside from this year, our volunteers experienced undue hardship. So even before Homecoming was cancelled we had decided not to commit to having the Red Hat volunteers,” she said. “There was rampant sexual harassment and racial threats left, right and centre.”

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